Musical fauna at the Kennedy Center
Monday, January 22, 2007 at 02:31PM
Stephen Brookes

January 22, 2007

The Washington Post 1/22/07:   Bringing a preschooler to a string quartet recital is an act, most parents would agree, of complete and utter insanity. Subject those tiny ears to one of Beethoven's "Rasumovsky" Quartets, or the subtleties of Saint-Saens? At best, it's an act of incredible optimism; at worst, an invitation to mayhem.

But at the Kennedy Center's Family Theater on Friday, four National Symphony Orchestra members proved any skeptics wrong, offering a friendly, pain-free and often hilarious introduction to the string quartet for the 4-and-older crowd.

                                                                       Carol Pratt
Violinists Holly Hamilton and Jane Bowyer Stewart, violist James Francis Deighan and cellist David Teie -- a.k.a. the Kennedy Quartet -- presented an animal-themed program that was as big on theatrics as it was on playing. Teie rode his cello around the stage during the galloping rhythms of the Beethoven (his bow wagging behind him as a tail), the violins tweeted during Haydn's Op. 33 "Bird" Quartet, and Schubert's bees, Saint-Saens's fish and other musical fauna cheerfully swarmed the stage.

But all this was just prelude to a new piece by Susan Kander called "The Donkey, the Goat and the Little Dog," billed as "the first all-talking, all-acting, in-motion string quartet." Each of the instruments took on a distinct personality, and Kander had them laugh, cry, play and argue together, while the players romped around and spoke their roles to make the story clear. The whole thing was hugely enjoyable, ending (as all dramas properly should) with everyone eating ice cream together, and the audience showed its approval with clapping, emphatic squeals and much bouncing in the seats.

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